Friday, December 02, 2011

Human Trafficking: UN human trafficking expert calls on Australia to step up efforts to help victims

UN - Australian authorities must do more to assist the victims of human trafficking, particularly when the victims are children, an independent United Nations human rights expert has warned at the end of an official visit to the country.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, issued a statement yesterday in which she called for greater attention to the rights and needs of trafficking victims in Australia, a “destination country” for trafficking.

“Australia has shown strong leadership and committed considerable resources to combating trafficking in persons,” she said. “However, I still observe that there is no national plan of action for combating trafficking with clear indicators for measuring outcome and impact.”

Ms. Ezeilo said the scale of the trafficking problem appears to be underestimated and underreported, with most victims outside the sex industry remaining unidentified.

“I have observed that the issue of trafficking in persons in Australia is sexualized and often conflated with prostitution. There is a need to move away from over-sexualizing the discourse on trafficking, which invariably contributes to the common stereotype of victims of trafficking as being women and girls forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.”

A victim-centred approach is still lacking in some areas, she added, with assistance to victims in some situations made conditional on their cooperation with authorities.

Ms. Ezeilo recommended that Australia provide specialist services for child victims of trafficking to take into account their needs in such areas as education, care and housing.

“Trafficked children should be given information on all matters affecting their interests, including their situation, legal options, entitlements and services available to them, and processes of family reunification or repatriation.”

Ms. Ezeilo, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, has been Special Rapporteur since August 2008. She reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.